Louisville Courier-Journal, KY
From Staff and AP Dispatches
PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- More than $1 billion worth of marijuana plants was found growing in Kentucky by the end of this year's growing season, and 327 suspected growers have been arrested, authorities said.
Kentucky traditionally ranks among the top states in illegal marijuana production. Major eradication efforts typically run from June through September.
This year 502,524 plants were taken, and each had a street value of at least $2,000 at maturity, Kentucky State Police Lt. Ed Shemelya said.
Shemelya said more marijuana would have been confiscated this year, but Kentucky National Guard helicopters that help search the rugged hills were needed along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.
"The more eyes we get in the sky, the more dope we can find," Shemelya said. "The area where marijuana is traditionally grown is so rugged and rural we can't cover it all. You can walk all day and never find it without someone in the air to direct the ground forces in."
Shemelya said the National Guard usually provides six to eight helicopters and pilots during the peak harvest season in September to help locate marijuana and to guide officers on the ground.
"I'd say we probably got about 60 percent of what was growing in our primary growing area," he said. "We simply ran out of time and money."